A hotel maid's sexual assault lawsuit against Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in New York City can go forward to trial, a judge ruled Tuesday, rebuffing the former International Monetary Fund leader's diplomatic-immunity claim.
Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon's ruling kept alive the civil case that emerged from a May 2011 hotel-room encounter that also spurred now-dismissed criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn, then a French presidential hopeful. The episode was the first in a series of allegations about his sexual conduct that sank his political career.
The housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, 33, said Strauss-Kahn, 63, tried to rape her when she arrived to clean his Manhattan hotel suite. Strauss-Kahn has denied doing anything violent during the encounter.
Prosecutors dropped related criminal charges last summer, saying they had developed doubts about her trustworthiness because she had lied about her background and her actions right after the alleged attack. She has insisted she told the truth about what happened in the encounter itself.
Strauss-Kahn didn't assert immunity from the criminal prosecution, and he resigned his IMF job days after his arrest. But his lawyers argued he should be immune from the lawsuit, which was filed about three months later.
That "may seem like an unfair result to some, but it's the result the law compels," Strauss-Kahn attorney lawyer Amit P. Mehta said at a hearing in March.
They pointed to a 1947 United Nations agreement that afforded the privilege to heads of "specialized agencies," including the International Monetary Fund. Although the United States didn't sign that agreement, Strauss-Kahn's attorneys said it has gained such broad acceptance elsewhere that it has become what's known as "customary international law."
Although Strauss-Kahn no longer had the IMF job when he was sued, his lawyers argued he still had immunity because another international agreement gives departing diplomats a "reasonable" amount of time to leave host countries before their immunity expires.
At the time, Strauss-Kahn was under a criminal court order to stay in the U.S., his attorneys noted.
But Diallo's lawyers said the immunity claim is off base. They stressed that the U.S. didn't join in the 1947 agreement, and that an IMF spokesman said shortly after Strauss-Kahn's arrest that he didn't have immunity because he was on personal business during his encounter with Diallo. Strauss-Kahn was visiting his daughter in New York.
"Dominique Strauss-Kahn thinks he's above the law," one of Diallo's lawyers, Kenneth P. Thompson, said after the March hearing.
The Associated Press generally doesn't name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Diallo has done.
McKeon's decision to allow the case to proceed was first reported by The New York Post.
After Strauss-Kahn's arrest in New York, a French writer came forward to say Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a 2003 interview. Paris prosecutors said that accusation was too old to try, but French authorities have pursued an unrelated allegation that he was involved in a hotel prostitution ring including prominent city figures and police in Lille.
In March, he was handed preliminary charges, which mean authorities have reason to believe a crime was committed but allow more time for investigation.
His French lawyer said the married Strauss-Kahn engaged in "libertine" acts but did nothing legally wrong and is being unfairly targeted for his extramarital sex life.